Jordan, US ink agreement to curb artefact smuggling

Imposing restrictions on the export of Jordanian artefacts to the US.

  

AMMAN — In an effort to protect Jordanian cultural heritage and archaeological sites from pillaging and smuggling, the Department of Antiquities and the US government on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) imposing restrictions on the export of Jordanian artefacts to the US.

The MoU was signed during a ceremony at The Jordan Museum by Director General of the Department of Antiquities Yazeed Alayan and Assistant US Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce.

It is the “first agreement of its kind” between the Kingdom and the US government and marks a reaffirmation of joint action by the two countries to combat antiquities trafficking in Jordan, according to Royce.

Under the MoU, Jordan will “exert all efforts” in taking measures to prevent the import, export and illegal ownership of cultural property, with support from the US government through technical assistance, according to a statement from the US embassy.

The statement added that among the artefacts to be affected by the restrictions are coins, manuscripts, stones, minerals, mosaic plates and ancient bones.

The memorandum also stressed “the need to return Jordanian artefacts that were confiscated in the United States to Jordan”, the statement said.

The programme is set to go into effect in February 2020, Royce told The Jordan Times at the ceremony.

In her opening remarks, Royce said that the broader goals of the agreement include reducing the incentive to pillage archaeological and cultural sites, aiding in preserving Jordan’s heritage and paving the way for artefact loans, exhibitions and virtual cultural exchanges between the two countries.

She stressed that the looting of antiquities results in “irretrievable loss of historical information and, ultimately, of memory”, noting that it also harms the Kingdom’s tourism sector, which employs almost 90,000 people and is a “top contributor” to the economy.

Royce told The Jordan Times that the Jordanian government had requested US support in addressing this issue, noting that the Kingdom “is concerned about the trafficking and looting of archaeological materials, and consequently, I’m very happy to say that this ceremony represents the formalised protection of those items”.

The US government has signed similar memoranda of understanding with 19 countries around the world, only three of which are in the MENA region, she said in her remarks, adding that in Jordan, it has supported 19 projects to protect cultural heritage, totalling over $2.5 million and including projects in Jerash, Petra and the Roman Amphitheatre in Amman.

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